“I’m home!” I thought as I arrived at the Eastside neighbourhood of this year’s Climate Camp.
Supper was being served and many friends were milling around full of reports of the week’s adventures. There was a sense of excitement about the following day when we were going to try and shut down Kingsnorth, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else in the world I would rather be.
This year, with no action planned and no desire to be penned in by police, I stayed on camp to help cook for the pirates, clowns, children, ramblers and activists who were off to shut down the power station. The camp is not just about taking action, and there is a lot of important work to do on site to support those who are putting their bodies in the way of climate injustice.
Yet the distinction between work and play is blurred. No one is coerced into working; everyone volunteers, and everyone helps, and most have fun at the same time. Working in the kitchen was pleasurable and satisfying; it involved a great deal of scrubbing and chopping, dancing to the solar-powered music system, interesting discussions and lots of laughter.
The notion of ‘service’ we have become so familiar with was not to be found in the kitchens, instead they were more akin to family homes. Only our family kitchen catered for 300 people, and with only 3 knives (many were confiscated in the police raids). We even had a ‘kitchen mummy’ (official name: kitchen coordinator) who shouted at anyone about to touch a pot “Have you washed your hands?”, too often followed by a shameful skulking out of the tent towards the sink.
What makes Climate Camp so special for me is the space that it creates. Not merely a squatted field but a squatted space in our imaginations, a space where debate, discussion and experimentation can happen, where everyday unquestioned assumptions are critically challenged, where thoughts can transpire that are otherwise unthinkable. I was sorry to miss the week’s workshops, but debate was not confined to these timetabled slots; it overflowed into everything that the camp was about.
There is something exceptional about the camp as a living example of an alternative. Working together with inspiring people who share a passionate belief that the world does not have to be the way it is, who live by their own critically considered ethics rather than blindly following the status quo.
Critics might say that this is only possible due to its temporality. Yet the thousands of individuals involved in the camp are all part of other projects and wider networks. The connections made at the camp are not transient and from them something incredible is growing.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist August 2008